Chapter 15: Petunia Demented.
Harry listened at the door before entering the room that his aunt and cousin were in. When he didn't hear anything, he knocked gently and then entered the room. He was carrying a tray that held glasses and several forms of drink- including the fizzy drinks that Harry knew Dudley liked. Ginny, who was behind him, held a tray with roast beef, potatoes, and gravy.
The room was one of the few rooms in this wing, which was rarely used by the manor's current inhabitants. It had been specifically cleaned and set up to accommodate Dudley and his mother. Two large beds had been provided for them along with chairs, a bulky sofa, and a small dining table and chairs.
Harry and Ginny quietly made their way across the room to the dining table and began setting out the food they had brought. Neither noticed Dudley get out of the bed he had been lying on. With every passing second that Dudley watched Harry, his anger grew. Dudley had come to blame Harry for everything that happened over the past couple of months. First, his father's death, and then his mother's breakdown. Petunia Dursley had not been the same since Vernon's death. After the first few days of shock, Dudley watched his mother let herself go. She traded her routine of cooking and cleaning for aimlessly wandering through the house. Now, she would do nothing but stay in bed.
Dudley was sure his mother would come around sooner or later, and when she did he wanted her healthy and happy. As he was the man of the house now, he knew it was his job to protect his mother. He did so by taking the cooking and cleaning on himself.
He was not worried about things until he made to pay the bills for the month. After several calls to the local bank, he discovered that his family had no money. There was a large mortgage against the house and many of the bills had not been paid in months. A very large life insurance policy that Vernon had taken out had not been paid in almost a year.
Dudley could not, and would not, believe that his father would leave his family this way. No, his father was a great man, and the problems he and his mother now faced were due to Harry's lot. He knew it in his heart, and Harry would know it in pain.
Harry turned just in time to see Dudley's fist flying towards him. On instinct Harry flicked his wand at Dudley.
Despite hanging in mid-air, suspended by something invisible holding his foot, Dudley still was trying to strike at Harry.
"Put me down, damn you!" Dudley raged at Harry.
"Only if you promise to calm down and not attack me or anyone else," Harry said, as Dudley's wrath reminded him of a time he had been that angry. Dumbledore had been so patient with Harry then, and Harry knew that he needed to be patient now.
Dudley did not respond, but after a few seconds Harry let him down slowly, despite the notion to drop him hard on his fat head. Dudley stood quickly and Harry thought he might try to attack him again, but he didn't.
"I am sure you are hungry," Harry offered, pointing to the food and the table.
After an intense moment, Dudley finally moved to the table and sat down. He looked apprehensive before taking a plate and loading it up. Harry sat across from him, and Ginny next to Harry.
"Dudley, I would like you to meet Ginny Weasley. Ginny, this is my cousin Dudley," Harry apprehensively introduced them. Ginny was not hiding her dislike for Dudley, and Dudley returned in kind.
They sat in a very uncomfortable silence while they ate. It was a testament to how hungry they were that nothing was said. Harry was the first to finish eating, but did not speak until Dudley was almost done.
"Is your mum all right?" Harry asked noticing that she had yet to move, let alone show any sign of getting up.
"You should know, it's down to your lot that she is as she is, and I have no doubt that it was your lot that killed my dad," Dudley's hate returned in full, but he did not get up from his seat.
Harry was unsure how to respond to Dudley's accusations. "What do you mean by 'the way she is'?"
"Like you don't know," Dudley spat, but the perplexed look on Harry's face went a long way to convincing him that maybe he didn't know.
After a pause it was Harry who spoke next, "I am unable to help you and Aunt Petunia unless I know what has happened."
They sat once again in silence for quite some time. Dudley thinking about what he should do or say, Harry trying to be patient, and Ginny fidgeting. Finally, Ginny stood up, taking the last clean plate, and began filling it with food. Neither Harry nor Dudley moved, they just watched her, unsure of what she was doing. After she was finished loading the plate she poured a cup of tea.
"How does your mum like her tea, Dudley?" Ginny asked.
"Why?" Dudley asked his eyes narrowing, then widening as he understood, "You will stay away from her, and I will be the one who takes care of her."
"I just thought I might be of some use, since you and Harry have important matters to discuss. Although, I couldn't really care less if your mum ever ate again," Ginny spat in an angry retort.
Dudley was stunned, never in his life had he met anyone like Ginny before. Her words had hit him harder then anything he had ever felt in the boxing ring. He just sat there staring at her with a look that asked the question, who are you?
Harry was caught of guard by Ginny's reaction, but unlike Dudley he recovered quickly. "Dudley, if your want to care for you mum, we could leave and come back when you're ready to talk."
Dudley turned to Harry and looked at him as though he had just noticed that Harry was in the room. "No, it's ok. She can see if mum will eat. I have had a time of it of late, getting mum to eat," he explained.
Ginny spun on her heal and moved to Petunia's side. The boys watched as Ginny got her to sit up. Once Harry was sure Ginny wouldn't need any help, he turned back to Dudley. Harry's heart sank as he saw the anguish on his cousin's face.
"Dudley, would you mind if we walked while we talked, my leg is cramping a little. These chairs are not the greatest."
"Oh, um, well I guess mum would be ok," Dudley said, but Harry knew he was unsure about leaving her.
After stepping out of the manor, Harry watched Dudley's expression as he stared at Ron and Neville flying over the Quidditch Pitch. Ron had been working with Neville on his flying. Harry was impressed with how well Neville was doing.
"So… What are they doing?" Dudley asked.
Harry was taken aback by Dudley's interest of anything magic. "Um," he was unsure of how to approach this topic, "Brooms are one way we travel, kind of like a one person-flying car."
"Oh," Dudley replied with a hollow tone.
After a momentary pause, Harry touched Dudley's arm with one hand, and with the other he suggested they head in the other direction towards the pond. Dudley watched the pair flying for a moment longer before starting off.
They walked in silence along the cobble stone path through the garden. Neither one of them was sure how or where to start their conversation, and just as Harry was about to speak Dudley jumped with a start as a rather large gnome slammed in to his leg. The gnome was running from a now huge Cosmo. Even though the kitten had not lived a half year it was twice the size of Crookshanks.
Harry was having a hard time not laughing out loud at the absurdity of the situation. Dudley looked from the gnome to Harry as if to ask, "What just happened?"
Harry could only answer his questioning look with a shrug. Cosmo was the only one not stunned by things as she leapt on top of the staggering gnome. The scream from the gnome was deafening, and a complete surprise to Cosmo, judging by the way she leapt in the air and shot off into the hedgerow across the path.
Silence fell again as the gnome ran in the opposite direction of the now long gone cat. Harry was taken a back as Dudley began to chuckle, at first his amusement seemed forced, but after a moment it turned to a deep laugh. Harry was about to join in the laughter, when Dudley's laughter was joined by tears. With the tears his laughter became howling, and howling turned to sobbing. Dudley fell to his knees, as he sobbed. Harry was unsure what to do, so he settled on putting what he hoped was a comforting hand on Dudley's shoulder.
Gaining his composure, Dudley gave Harry a look of contempt. He loathed the fact that Harry had seen him like this. Standing up he slapped Harry's hand away. He glowered at Harry for a moment.
"So, what did your kind do to bewitch my dad, I do not believe he would have thrown everything away, leaving mum and I as despots." Rage and disgust filled Dudley's words.
"I admit what happened may have been the work of dark wizards," Harry's reply was not what Dudley had expected.
"So, you admit that your kind destroyed my father?" Dudley's voice seemed hesitant.
"I admit the possibility that you might be right that dark wizards may well have destroyed your father in an attempt to get to me, but I can't be sure until I know what happened," Harry said calmly.
Dudley's hesitation only grew with the confirmation of his suspicions. "What do you mean you can't be sure? You know what happened."
Harry bit back the retort he would have loved to say, and instead he calmly said, "If you want my help, we will have to look past our feelings for each other."
Dudley just blinked at Harry. Harry extended his hand signaling that they should keep walking. They reached the edge of the pond and did not stop. They walked in silence half way around to the other side of the pound.
"He lost it all, we had nothing," Dudley's voice cracked. It took a moment for him to gather his composure"Well, he did leave us something: debt. If he could borrow against it, he did–the car, house, hell, even our television."
"What did he use the money for?" Harry prompted, hoping to keep Dudley going.
"Stocks and bonds, high risk stuff too. From what I could find out, he started small and hit it big. But he didn't stop there. After a while he blew through the money he had made, so he invested more, and when that was gone…" Dudley stopped and looked up at Harry, ashamed that he was sharing his father's disgrace with him. Dudley was stunned by the concern on Harry's face. Why should Harry care about what happened to Dudley and his family?
"Well, I don't know if it was the work of wizards that destroyed your father, but I promise you that I will find out, and that you don't have to worry about the money. I will make sure all the debt is paid, and we will do what ever it takes to bring your mum around." Harry looked Dudley straight in the eye as he spoke, and from that moment their relationship would never be the same.
Harry had asked Lupin and Tonks to look in to what had happened with his aunt, uncle, and cousin since he had left the confines of their house. They had just sent word that would be returning to the manor shortly. The past few days had been strange around the manor. Harry and Dudley had a new found respect for each other; they were civil towards each other, and even when the other was not in the room. Ginny had taken to caring for Aunt Petunia, and for some unknown reason Ginny was the only one who could get her to move or eat.
Stranger still, Dudley, as of late, had been spending more time with Ginny than Harry had. Harry was not really worried about them together, but that did not stop him from being a little jealous.
Harry was pulled away from his thoughts by a knock at his study door. "Come in."
Remus entered the room and walked across to where Harry had stood up to greet him. After greeting each other they sat in large overstuffed chairs, similar to the ones that sat in front of the fire place in the Gryffindor common room.
"Would you like something to drink?" Harry asked politely.
Remus started to say no, but changed his mind and with a nod he indicated that he would. Quickly Harry stood and walked to the small round table in the far corner of the room.
"Rosemerta's?" Harry asked indicating the decanter on the table, with a nod from his guest Harry poured two glasses before returning to his seat, offering the second glass to Remus.
"So, what did you find?" Harry was unsure he really wanted to know the answer.
Setting his glass down, Remus began to relay what he had uncovered. "Vernon Dursley started with dabbling in high risk investments about two years ago, and he had done quite well to start. He took all that he made and dumped it back in, and he lost all he had made and more. If he was smart he would have stopped there, but instead he took a loan against his pension. Well, it snow balled from there, he just kept going deeper in debt."
Remus paused a moment, and Harry took the opportunity to ask a question, "Do you think that my uncle was compelled by magic to do the things he did?"
"I don't that that is likely, I think he fell in to a trap of addiction," Remus said sadly.
"Are you sure that he was not under the influence of magic?"
"I could not say with one hundred percent certainty that he was not influenced by magic, but there is no reason to believe there was," Remus answered again.
"Thank you. For Dudley's sake, I will tell him that we could not prove or disprove what influenced my uncle's actions. He can establish his own conclusions about his father," after Harry finished, he tipped his glass to his lips and sipped.
"As for the condition of your aunt, I can say with certainty what has happened. Upon further inspection of your aunt's house we encountered a dementor, who had been posted there under the instructions of Vold… Tom. It was only supposed to watch the house, but your aunt started to pull out of the grief she was feeling over Vernon's death. The dementor could not resist," Remus reported with a shiver.
"Why was Dudley not affected?" Harry asked him self as well as Remus.
"I would guess that as he will still deep in grief when the dementor moved in. He was apparently not even thinking good thoughts. Then his mother slid into a catatonic state and things got worse for him. Simply put, her grief saved him," Remus offered his hypothesis.
After Harry mulled things over he found Remus's logic to be sound. "We will make arrangements to have my aunt looked at by healers in the morning. Is there anything else?"
Remus answered with a shake of the head, and the two sat in silence while they finished their drinks.